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Analysis: Hits and misses from the vice presidential debate

It was a far extra civil affair than final week’s debacle between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

I watched, tweeted and took notes. Below, my ideas on the most effective and the worst from the night time that was.

* Kamala Harris: The California senator’s greatest 15 minutes of the talk had been the primary 15 minutes of the talk. Helped by the deal with Covid-19 — and the Trump administration’s botched dealing with of the pandemic, Harris crushed Pence with the file of the administration he is part of. “They knew and they covered it up,” she mentioned of Trump’s admission that he purposely downplayed the severity of the virus. Harris was much less sturdy in defending Biden’s file — particularly Pence’s repeated assaults on Biden’s supposed assertion that he would repeal the entire Trump tax cuts and finish fracking. (Harris mentioned Biden would guarantee taxes wouldn’t go up on anybody making lower than $400,000 and insisted, repeatedly, that Biden wouldn’t ban fracking.) And her dodge of a query on whether or not a Biden administration would add seats to the Supreme Court was a miss. Overall, nonetheless, I believe Harris did what an excellent VP ought to do — she slammed Trump, significantly on Covid-19, and saved the main target largely on the present administration. She did so with a peaceful, cool and picked up demeanor; when Pence interrupted, she used silence and a stare — typically simpler than any phrases. And her “Mr. Vice President, I am speaking” line goes to be one to recollect for Democrats.

* Mike Pence, on offense: The vp is a really strong (and underrated) debater. His greatest moments on Wednesday night time got here when he was prosecuting the previous statements of each Biden and Harris — on taxes, on fracking, on the Green New Deal, on China. It’s more durable than you may assume to weave opposition analysis dumps into a solution in a debate with out it wanting completely pressured. Pence is great at it. And wanting on the debate solely by way of the lens of Pence’s political future being tied to defending, with no quarter given, the file of Donald Trump, he acquitted himself properly.

* Susan Page’s questions: Yes, the moderator took loads of warmth for her lack of ability to rein in Pence when he saved speaking past the time restrict. (More on that under.) But in case you return and take heed to (or learn) her questions, they had been excellent. Pointed, considerate and, sadly, largely unanswered.

* The fly: Look, say what you’ll concerning the media specializing in the unimportant stuff. But there was a rattling fly on Pence’s hair for two strong minutes! (This is just not an exaggeration; it was truly two minutes.) Has a fly ever obtained extra publicity? Heck, Biden even despatched out a fly fundraising enchantment whereas the talk was nonetheless happening! Also, in case you do not assume this debate shall be remembered because the “fly debate,” nicely then, please enable me to introduce you to politics.

* Twitter: I’ve a love/hate relationship with the social media platform, nevertheless it actually is at its greatest on large political nights like this. Funny and insightful, with snark sprinkled on prime and simply the correct amount of imply baked in there, too.


* Mike Pence, on protection: It is a herculean process to attempt to defend Trump’s actions (and inactions) on the coronavirus pandemic. That was the job earlier than Pence on Wednesday night time and, not surprisingly, he got here up quick. Pence glossed over Trump’s repeated skepticism of confirmed mitigation methods — mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding massive crowds — and as a substitute tried to make your complete dialog about particular person freedom. The factor about particular person freedom is that you’re not free to do issues that impinge on others’ well being and security. Mitigating Covid-19 is not about people’ freedom, it is about collective motion. Trump’s lack of ability to know that’s indefensible — and Pence was not capable of defend it.

* Susan Page’s refereeing: In the precise give-and-take of the talk, Page, the USA Today Washington bureau chief, struggled considerably. The most obtrusive subject was that she merely couldn’t get both candidate to reply the questions requested of them. I misplaced depend of what number of instances Harris and Pence overtly ignored the query Page requested to offer what was, oftentimes, a rehearsed speech. (The most obtrusive instance was when Harris took a Page query about Biden’s age and whether or not they had talked about the potential of transferring presidential energy and spent two minutes simply strolling individuals by way of her life story.) The different drawback with how Page dealt with the talk was that she was merely unable to maintain Pence from going means over his allotted time. She tried gamely, nevertheless it turned clear fairly early on that her “Mr. Vice President” interjection wasn’t stopping the Pence prepare. She ought to have tried one other tactic. And in fact, reducing off candidates’ mics once they go over the agreed-upon time to reply questions is the true answer right here — which is within the fingers of the campaigns and the Commission on Presidential Debates, not Page.

* Donald Trump/Joe Biden: Both Pence and Harris had been extra substantive and simpler than both of the lads who’re main their respective tickets. Yes, Trump made it inconceivable to have a debate with any form of guidelines or decorum, however when Biden received his possibilities in final week’s debate, he was decidedly mediocre. Like them or hate them, Pence and Harris proved they’re each higher debaters than their ticket mates on Wednesday night time.

* Plexiglass: The dividers preserving the candidates from respiratory on one another had been all the fad of the pre-debate protection. And but they had been barely ever proven on display screen. Oh, and likewise: Every infectious illness professional mentioned they had been completely pointless.

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